“Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. And the LORD said to Joshua; ‘See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him” (Josh. 6:1-5).
God is faithful and always keeps His promises, and so the time has come for the Israelites to conquer their first city in the Promised Land of Canaan–Jericho. Jericho was a heavily fortified city; it was the largest and strongest of the land. If they could destroy it, none of the other Canaanite cities would be able to stand before them. Archaeological digs have proved that the city had walls in the past. Some have estimated them at approximately 12 feet high (perhaps much taller) and 6 feet wide. Additionally, some have noted a ditch beyond the wall approximately 27 feet wide and 9 feet deep. Conquering a city with this level of defense would, on the surface, seem to be an exceedingly difficult challenge, but all things are possible with God (cf. Matt. 19:26)! A wall that was tall and thick and a ditch that was wide and deep would not thwart the will of the LORD! The inhabitants of Jericho are terrified of Israel. They are not allowing anyone in or out of the city. They are on red alert, so to speak. God affirmed that He had given Israel the city before the fighting had even begun! It was as good as theirs in the mind of God. Interestingly, this gift God gave them was only received after one week of obedience (cf. Heb. 11:30)! God provided detailed instructions to Joshua regarding how they could lay hold of this gift (in other words, there were conditions to receive the gift). Even today, friends, there are wonderful gifts God has reserved for us (e.g., salvation), but we will never receive or enjoy them if we are unwilling to claim them on God’s terms (for salvation specifically: faith, repentance, and baptism).
“Then Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, ‘Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD.’ And he said to the people, ‘Proceed, and march around the city, and let him who is armed advance before the ark of the LORD.’ So it was, when Joshua had spoken to the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the LORD advanced and blew the trumpets, and the ark of the covenant of the LORD followed them. The armed men went before the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard came after the ark, while the priests continued blowing the trumpets. Now Joshua had commanded the people, saying, ‘You shall not shout or make any noise with your voice, nor shall a word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I say to you, ‘Shout!’ Then you shall shout.’ So he had the ark of the LORD circle the city, going around it once. Then they came into the camp and lodged in the camp” (Josh. 6:6-11).
Joshua explained to the people what God expected of them in regards to overthrowing the city. Faith would be their victory here since this plan was unlike any other before or after it (and their faith does not falter)! What military mind would concoct an attack plan founded on marching around the wall, blowing trumpets, and shouting after the thirteenth lap? Indeed, God’s ways and thoughts are not ours; His are far supreme (cf. Isa. 55:8,9)!
“And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. Then seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD went on continually and blew with the trumpets. And the armed men went on before them. But the rear guard came after the ark of the LORD, while the priests continued blowing the trumpets. And the second day they marched around the city once and returned to camp. So they did six days” (Josh. 6:12-14). I wonder what the watchmen of Jericho thought as Israel approached the first time only to march around it silently (except for the sound of the trumpets). I wonder what they thought on the subsequent days. Certainly fear would have been blended with confusion, and perhaps even some ridicule as the week wore on.
“But it came to pass on the seventh day that they rose early, about the dawning of the day, and marched around the city seven times in the same manner. On that day only they marched around the city seven times. And the seventh time it happened, when the priests blew the trumpets, that Joshua said to the people: ‘Shout, for the LORD has given you the city! Now the city shall be doomed by the LORD to destruction, it and all who are in it. Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in her house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to the LORD; they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.’ So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword” (Josh. 6:15-21).
The wall fell flat–absolutely amazing! Although the text does not explain, it seems reasonable that the wall fell outward and into the ditch, thus making passage over it and into the city possible. The oath made to Rahab was kept. She and those with her in her home were spared the gruesome death that awaited everyone and everything else that drew breath in Jericho. Everyone was killed, regardless of gender, age, or social standing. Even all the animals were slain. One might wonder: Why? Why destroy perfectly good animals? The answer is simple: they belonged to God and He wanted them destroyed. That answer should suffice. To take something that is God’s is to steal and to bring oneself under God’s curse (e.g., Josh. 7; cf. Lev. 27:28,29). The consequences of sin go far beyond the guilty individual; the effects often bring pain and death to others.
“But Joshua had said to the two men who had spied out the country, ‘Go into the harlot’s house, and from there bring out the woman and all that she has, as you swore to her.’ And the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, her mother, her brothers, and all that she had. So they brought out all her relatives and left them outside the camp of Israel. But they burned the city and all that was in it with fire. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father’s household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho” (Josh. 6:22-25).
The only items that were to survive from Jericho were the precious metals that would be used in the service of the Lord. Everything else would go up in smoke! Why utterly destroy a city that could be used by the Israelites? Why not just kill the people and then take over? Again, the answer is the same: The city belonged to God and He wanted it destroyed. This city was the “firstfruit” of Canaan, so to speak, and it belonged to God in the fullest sense. The Israelites were welcome to the spoils of the other cities they would soon take.
“Then Joshua charged them at that time, saying, ‘Cursed be the man before the LORD who rises up and builds this city Jericho; he shall lay its foundation with his firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates.’ So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout all the country” (Josh. 6:26,27). I Kings 16:34 provides the historical follow-up to the curse pronounced here. Clearly, God did not want the city to be rebuilt. The one who did so would pay a dear price regarding his family.
Joshua 6 is an incredible account of the complete destruction Israel brought against the city of Jericho made possible by the power of Almighty God. It is clear that God gave specific instructions and the people were blessed when they obeyed them. It required great faith to follow these unique directions without modification. Likewise, today there are challenging instructions that God has given us in the New Testament. Do you have enough faith to trust God completely and show your confidence by obeying Him at all times and in every way (particularly when you don’t understand the need for a specific command or think there is a better way)?